Opium Pipes
A museum display of rare opium pipes decorated with cloisonne, a type of enamel. From a special exhibition at Holland's Kunsthal Rotterdam that was on display in 2007.
A museum display of opium pipes adorned with tortoise shell. From a special exhibition at Holland's Kunsthal Rotterdam that was on display in 2007.
This pipe-stem was made from segments of ox horn carved to resemble a stem of bamboo. The pipe-stem has been fitted with a cloisonne saddle and topped with a octagonal ceramic pipe-bowl.
This bamboo pipe with a relatively simple silver saddle is crowned by a whimsical ceramic pipe-bowl shaped like a crab.
The vast majority of opium pipes featured a pipe-stem fashioned from a length of bamboo. This photo shows detail of the metal fitting known as a "saddle" by which the pipe-bowl was attached to the pipe-stem.
A rare opium pipe with a stem made from porcelain. There are only a handful of these pipes that survived the anti-opium eradication campaigns.
A rare opium pipe adorned with Canton enamel. Within the enamel-covered copper sheath is a peeled stem of bamboo. The endpieces are white jade, and the hexagonal pipe-bowl is ceramic.
A close-up of an opium pipe on a mother-of-pearl layout tray.

Many types of Asian pipes are mistaken for opium pipes, but there is only true opium pipe: one that was designed to vaporize the drug, not burn it. This was achieved by the means of a highly specialized pipe-bowl. The bowl, which actually looks nothing like a traditional bowl but rather like a door knob, was attached to a long stem by means of a metal fitting, referred to in English as a "saddle". The length of an opium pipe varied from approximately 15 inches (40cm) to about 22 inches (56cm). The most common material from which pipe stems were made was bamboo, but Chinese artisans experimented with myriad substitutes, including ivory, jade, horn, porcelain, as well as enamels such as cloisonne. The result was often a striking work of art.

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